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The Baltimore Sun

Marks, Huff say unanswered questions spurred 'no' vote on transgender bill

When the much-debated bill that inserted gender identity and sexual orientation into the county's current anti-discrimination law passed at the Baltimore County Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, it did so without the vote of council members Todd Huff and David Marks.

"This was the toughest vote I've had to cast since I was elected," Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson, said Wednesday. "I think every person deserves access to a job, to training, to banking, to housing, but at the end of the day, I just had too many unanswered questions, and I just felt compelled to vote no."

Likewise, Huff, the 3rd District councilman whose district includes Lutherville-Timonium and Cockeysville, said the bill was not clear enough in his mind.

The two were the negative votes in the council's 5-2 decision.

"There were just too many unanswered questions to it, feasibility aspects to the business community," Huff said. He also cited the educational impact of the bill.

"I'm not for discrimination by any means," Huff said. "It was just too broad, and anybody, for any reason, is protected under the standard laws that we already have on the books."

Huff noted that those people charged with the beating of a transgender woman who was assaulted at a Rosedale McDonalds after attempting to use the restroom were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"This legislation would not have changed any of the outcome of that situation, as tragic as it was," he said.

Likewise, Marks said courts have already ruled that you can't discriminate by sex, and that the state General Assembly would likely tackle the issue in the future.

Marks emphasized that he told supporters of the bill before the vote that they would get a "clean bill" without amendments they deemed unacceptable — even if it meant it would pass without Marks' support.

"I heard from a lot of constituents that opposed it," he said. "I heard from those that consider themselves liberal and had problems with technical aspects of the bill, and I decided to vote against it."

Huff's constituents, many of whom are conservatives from northern Baltimore County, influenced his vote as well.

"I represent the conservative base of the county, and we ran the numbers," Huff said. "The vast majority of my constituents were not in favor of it, and I represent my constituents."

That Marks and Huff, the lone dissenting votes on the bill, are also the two Republican members of the council is no coincidence.

"I would be lying if I didn't say that a lot of Republicans expressed concerns with the bill," Marks said. "There are some issues, unfortunately, that sometimes fall along partisan lines. Term limits did, this did, and speed cameras did. ... In Baltimore County that doesn't happen all the time, but sometimes it does."

Marks' measure on term limits fails

Marks suffered a defeat at Tuesday's meeting when a bill he sponsored that would have subjected council members to term limits did not pass.

"I campaigned on term limits, I brought it to a vote and it failed," Marks said. "I view my role in this as finished. I'm going to be turning my focus to other things."

Despite the setback on the issue and the opposition his fellow council members publicly expressed, Marks doesn't see their difference as a long-term hindrance.

"I think this County Council has worked very well across partisan lines to address a number of development and community issues, and that is going to continue to be my focus," Marks said.

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